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Teen Book Fest Panel Preview: Read This, I Dare You!

Teenscape Department, Central Library,
Teen Book Fest Logo

The Read This, I Dare You! panel will take place on Saturday, October 12 at 12pm in Meeting Room A.

Read This, I Dare You! is a special panel at Teen Book Fest, featuring a line-up of well-read, knowledgable, and passionate YA book bloggers who will be discussing trends in YA literature, best new books, all-time favorites, and more. Find your new favorite book, and get great reading recommendations from people in the know here!

Meet the panelists:

Alethea Allarey blogs at Read Now Sleep Later. She’s a website designer and former bookseller who loves everything from picture books to YA. You can find her talking good reads, good eats, and all the LA book signings on Twitter and Facebook.

Alethea Allarey Photo

Alyson Beecher reviews books at Kid Lit Frenzy, and along with Alethea, is the co-founder of Bridge to Books, an organization that supports efforts to connect kids with books. She is also an educator and writing mentor.

Alyson Beecher Photo

Thuy Lam reviews children’s and YA books at Read Now Sleep Later, and adult, YA, and nonfiction at Nite Lite Book Reviews. You can also check in with her on Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter.

Thuy Lam Childhood Photo

Maggie Park blogs at Young Adult Anonymous, where she is the resident authority on all things Australian YA. You can also follow her on Tumblr and Twitter.

Maggie Park Photo with Black Bar Over Eyes

Lee Wind is an author, speaker, a co-Regional Advisor for SCBWI Los Angeles, and advocate for GLBTQ Teens and their allies. His award-winning blog is I’m Here. I’m Queer. What the Hell Do I Read?

Lee Wind Photo

We asked our panelists about their favorite spots in LA (spoilers - most of them are bookish), what book character they'd go as for Halloween, and - because we can't wait until October 12 - we asked them to give us one itsy bitsy little book recommendation now. Here's what they all had to say:

1. I want to read something amazing. What's the best book you've read lately?

Alethea: September Girls by Bennett Madison. It's vulgar, surprising, and endearing. I don't think it's for everyone, but I love it. I'm trying to savor every chapter so it's taking me a while to get through it, but it's the first book I have read this year that I wish I had written myself.

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Alyson: I seem to be reading some really emotionally heavy books lately. For the best book I have read lately, I would recommend Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein. It is a companion novel to Code Name Verity. A very different book in some ways, and even more heart-wrenching and moving than Code Name Verity.

Thuy: I really loved Scarlet by Marissa Meyer. I am a huge fan of Cinder and didn't think Scarlet could be as good, but I was so wrong. I actually think it's better than Cinder and I cannot wait to read Cress. I also finished Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers recently, which was fantastic. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, while not YA, is a really amazing book that will appeal to many readers.

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Maggie: I loved Wildlife by Fiona Wood and Sky So Heavy by Claire Zorn. They're both Australian authors but Wildlife and Fiona's other book, Six Impossible Things, will be published in the States.

Lee: "Best" is really hard! Here's two: The graphic novel Artifice by Alex Woolfson, art by Winona Nelson. it was the kind of Sci Fi Adventure I loved, but with a gay romance! It would have rocked my world as a teen. Heck, I'm an adult, and it rocked my world. I also really enjoyed Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz. This book has won a lot of awards - Including the American Library Association's Pura Belpre Award for a Latino/a writer whose work portrays the Latino cultural experience AND the Stonewall Book Award for a book of exceptional merit relating to the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender experience- and it's so cool to see a main character who is both a person of color AND gay. Ari is loveable, and I fell for him, Dante, and their story.

2. What makes you fall in love with a book? What makes you want to throw it across the room?

Alethea: Wow, that's a tough question. I hate to answer with "a certain je ne sais quoi" but I might have to for this one--it's not a single thing or a short list of bullet points the author has to hit. If the author can stir together his or her ideas, words, and voice, cook them up into plot, character and theme, and add the secret ingredient--that's when I fall in love with a book. It's not a very exact recipe, unfortunately.

As for the latter, the things that drive me the most crazy are lack of consequences, too-long descriptions, and transparent plots. My biggest pet peeve is clueless main characters... I'd rather have a MarySue-type who picks things up quickly than a protagonist who can't see the answers staring them right in the face.

Alyson: One of the most important things for me with a book is that I need to connect with the characters. If I care about them, then even if it isn't the "best book ever", I will stay with it because of the characters. Also, I hate when characters I love have to go through horrible things. I will actually find myself cringing on a character's behalf or putting the book down and walking away if I don't like what is happening to him or her. The few times I have actually thrown a book was when I got so angry at something stupid that a character does.

Thuy: Great characters will always do it for me. If I care about the characters (and that doesn't necessarily mean that I have to like them), then I will go with them anywhere. I like characters that are complex and aren't just one note. That said, I do like a fair amount of action in my books and enjoy things that are fast-paced. A little romance never hurt anyone either. :)

Maggie: I love books that tackle issues with humor. For example, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews was one of the funniest books I've read and it dealt with cancer. I actually don't mind love triangles if they're believable but instalove drives me crazy. Girls that take a Bella Swandive off reality over a boy drive me crazy.

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Lee: Love: Diversity in play, taking me to different worlds, putting me in different shoes, seeing through other's eyes. Toss: Stereotypes, tokenism, typos.

3. If you had to dress up as a character from a book for Halloween, who would you go as?

Alethea: Anna Dressed in Blood! I love the cover of Kendare Blake's book and people won't need to have read it to appreciate the gory sight of a 1950's vintage white dress dribbled in blood from a knife wound to the throat.

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Alyson: I am not very creative with dressing up for Halloween, but maybe Anne of Avonlea (Anne of Green Gables, Book 2) - I love the time period and she is a teacher in this book.

Thuy: Well since I am on a Scarlet kick I might just have to say Scarlet or Little Red Riding Hood. Effie Trink from The Hunger Games would also be an awesome costume. Can you imagine the hair and makeup you could do?

Maggie: Saba from Blood Red Road!!

Lee: I might consider going as the plane full of beauty queens that crashes into a not-so-deserted desert island in Libba Bray's hysterical Beauty Queens. I also really adored her embrace and inclusion of flawed, interesting, and wonderful lesbian, bi, trans, and people of color characters in the book!

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4. What's your favorite place in LA?

Alethea: I don't go there as often as I would like, but it's the labyrinth at The Last Bookstore in LA. $1 books and art installations--what's not to love?

Alyson: Hmmm...this is hard. Can I say any or all independent bookstores in the area? Pasadena isn't technically Los Angeles, but I can most often be found on the floor of the Children's Section of Vroman's Bookstore flipping through a stack of new picture books.

Thuy: I love the beach so if you put me somewhere with sand and the ocean with a book, I am pretty happy. Unfortunately I live in the Valley and don't get to the beach as often as I would like. I don't have a favorite beach. Any one will do really.

Maggie: Disneyland!

Lee: I really like the Literati Cafe - great ambiance, great food, a wonderful place to write and to meet up with other writers! (It's at Bundy and Wilshire, and no, they're not sponsoring my saying this. Not even a cookie.)

5. Is there a book that you wish had a different ending? How would you change it?

Alethea: I can't think of one! I don't often have problems with endings -- it's the beginnings and middles that sometimes annoy me.

Alyson: I have mixed feelings about changing the endings of books. Though there may be things that I might want to change about an ending of a book, I feel that if the author is true to who she/he is and to her/his story's vision, she/he should be able to end it anyway that she/he wants. When I read Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, there was a part of me that wanted, at first, a different ending for the book. However, the more I thought about it the more the ending seemed to fit what I knew about Suzanne Collins and the ending made sense in that context.

Thuy: There is a book that I wish had ended differently just because I want a happy ending. But in reality it would not have been true to the characters and would have made the ending less powerful. I can't say what book it is for fear of ruining it for people but even though I would want the ending to be different, the ending it has is the better one. You can't always have a happy ending.

Maggie: Rebel Heart by Moira Young. WHY. I think I would change a lot of parts of that book but the ending... in non-spoiler terms, I would not have the third person there watching.

Lee: The list of books with queer characters with tragic endings from the 1990s and before is depressing. I would change ALL their moralistic, oh, let's kill off the queer person to make sure we're not sending the message that you can grow up queer and be a happy, well-adjusted citizen of our world. Arrrgh!

But the good news is we've got lots of books since then that have happy, or hopeful endings - and now we're seeing books for teens where the characters are LGBTQ and it's not the sole subject matter of the story. We'll always need coming out stories (just like there will always be hetero first-love romances) but it's wonderful to see the evolution that's happening.

We will be giving away prize bags of books to members of the audience at this panel. Don’t forget to fill out a prize ticket when you take your seat, and don't miss this terrific panel!